St.12 American History Project

By James Crow

First Abolitionist Societies

The Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage, the first American society dedicated to the cause of abolition, is founded in Philadelphia on Apr, 14 1775. The society changes its name to the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage in 1784. Fredrick Douglass became the face of the abolitionist movement, after William Loyd Garrison found out how essenntial he will be to the cause.

Quakers Abolition Protests

The first public protest by Quakers against slavery took place in 1688 in Germantown, Pennsylvania when a group of German Quakers of Pietist origins drew up a formal remonstrance against the notion that one person can own another, the so-called 'Germantown Protest'. It said in part: 'Now, tho' they are black, we cannot conceive there is more liberty to have them slaves, as it is to have other white ones...And those who steal or rob men, and those who buy or purchase them, are they not all alike?'

In 1696 Pennsylvania Yearly Meeting of Quakers made the first official, corporate pronouncement against the slave trade when it wrote a minute urging Quaker merchants and traders to 'write abroad to their correspondents that they send no more Negroes to be disposed of' [sold]. Between 1674 and around 1710, many Maryland Quakers freed their slaves, either by wills or deeds of manumission. But many others continued to hold and trade in slaves and the institution of slavery became a divided issue amongst Friends.

Importants of Northwest Ordinance 1787

It established the precedent by which the United States would expand westward across North America by the admission of new states, rather than by the expansion of existing states.

The banning of slavery in the territory had the effect of establishing the Ohio River as the boundary between free and slave territory in the region between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. This division helped set the stage for the balancing act between free and slave states that was the basis of a critical political question in American politics in the 19th century until the Civil War.

Rise of the Underground Rail Road

The Underground Railroad was the term used to describe a network of persons who helped escaped slaves on their way to freedom in the northern states or Canada. Although George Washington had commented upon such practices by the Quakers as early as the 1780s, the term gained currency in the 1830s, as northern abolitionists became more vocal and southern suspicions of threats to their peculiar institution grew.The popular perception of a well-coordinated system of Quaker, Covenanter, and Methodist “conductors” secretly helping fugitives from “station” to “station” is an exaggeration. The practice involved more spontaneity than the railroad analogy suggests. By the time escapees reached areas where sympathetic persons might assist them, they had already completed the most difficult part of their journey. A successful escape was usually less the product of coordinated assistance and more a matter of the runaways’ resourcefulness–and a great deal of luck.

The most active of the Railroad workers were northern free blacks, who had little or no support from white abolitionists. The most famous “conductor,” an escaped slave named Harriet Tubman, reportedly made nineteen return trips to the South; she helped some three hundred slaves escape. A number of individual whites also aided runaways, as did “vigilance committees,” often biracial in character, in northern cities.